“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly - they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1932. Whenever you read something that makes you question everything, it usually stays with you long after you’ve finished the book; irritating you, challenging you, and unnerving you to the point of insanity. Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World had exactly this effect on me, after I was forced to read it by a friend who told me it was an actual literary necessity.
Within this frighteningly distorted, futuristic society, the people within have been artificially created in test tubes; altered, so that when they are born, they are easily segregated into social class by their varying degrees of intellectual capacity and physical ability. There is a recreational drug frequently used called ‘Soma’, which provides a hallucinogenic holiday from reality, or in other words, a smart way to nullify and control the people. Sexual promiscuity is not only encouraged for men and women, it is embedded in their social conditioning from childhood; so much so that any stigma still present in our lives on the subject is completely removed in theirs.
Can you imagine it? Huxley’s writing forces you to, through his talented ability to paint a picture that raises the hair on your neck; as twisted as this version of the future is, you can almost see it as a possibility.
The story follows Bernard Marx (yes, the last name is a play on the famous social economist Karl Marx, co-author of the 1848 Communist Manifesto, drawing attention to the criticisms Marx makes of society’s class system) and his struggles in his society; his physical deformities set him aside from the perfect biological constructions of his peers. When he visits a reservation, a primitive section of society where traditional values of religion, monogamy and community still exists, he and those around him are confronted with fear-provoking truths of their falsified existence.
This novel’s beauty lies in the disturbing wake up call. It poses such questions as: is absolutely everything we believe, even the commonalities of our nature which we have been dictated to understand as biological truths, a huge pile of lies? No one likes to think they are being manipulated or trained to be a certain way, but Huxley makes you realise that not everything is as it seems.
Huxley’s words have pierced my brain, allowing uncertainty to tumble through in its wake; but I’m okay with it. To read Brave New World is to commit an act of bravery in itself, but one you will be genuinely glad you did.
I promise you, after reading this novel, you will never look at your world the same.